How Do We Get Those Helpful Republicans Back?

How Do We Get Those Helpful Republicans Back?

Originally published in the Ann Arbor News, Bay City Times, Flint Journal, Grand Rapids Press, Jackson Citizen Patriot, Kalamazoo Gazette, Muskegon Chronicle, Saginaw News
October 27, 2013

Credit for the initial observation goes to my friend, Mert. Growing up in Michigan, it seemed like Richard Austin was the de facto Secretary of State (which is what Michigan calls its department of motor vehicles). He was the guy with his picture on the wall, so he must be the guy we elect. And checking Wikipedia, true enough, he served from 1970 to 1994. He may have been a fine fellow and done some good things, but from a general citizen point of view, going to the Secretary of State office back then was a decidedly unhappy experience. So was there a great hue and cry to stop the existence of the Secretary of State? To obstruct it? To defund it? To kill it? Well, yeah, probably. (We were no less prone to emotional reactions back then.) But did we listen? No. No instead we elected leaders to improve the situation and now — again from my general citizen point of view — dealing with the Secretary of State office is not so bad. I think there’s a lesson there somewhere….


  1. Don Wilkie said,

    October 29, 2013 @ 12:03 pm

    I worked for SOS in the Driver/Vehicle Services division from 1968 through 1981. For most of that time I was in the “Communications Unit,” which dealt with calls from branches and law enforcement (LEIN). The problems which existed back then had very little to do with politics, and everything to do with technology–no computer system existed, so “records” consisted of countless files full of current driving records, titles, and registrations, and countless reels of microfilm for previous ones. Even after the creation of computerized data, there were still plenty of “no record on file” queries. Also, all plates expired at the same time, creating huge backlogs at the end of March, and “renewal by mail” was still a pipe dream.

    In many ways, “Big Dick” Austin (as some of us called him) was exactly that–but it wasn’t his fault that SOS branches were breeding grounds for public resentment. In fact, it might be argued that the drive to de-privatize and technically upgrade local branches which took place during his tenure was the onset of improvement.

    Love your stuff, by the way. 😉

  2. John Auchter said,

    November 5, 2013 @ 7:01 am

    Thanks, Don! Being of a certain age, I know firsthand the technology challenges you mention here. Having to write computer code with IBM punch cards was enough to scare me away from a career in programming.

    I appreciate the insiders view. As you may have guessed, editorial cartoons are often researched only up to the point of feelings and memories. Helps us relate to readers but doesn’t win journalism points.

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